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ABOUT JACKIE COURTNEY, FROM HER DAUGHTER:

My mother was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma on her right cheek in the fall of 2004. Luckily, the cancer had not spread, and no further treatment was necessary after her surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

About to undergo a gall bladder operation in March ’10, a shadow was discovered in my mother’s lungs during routine pre-surgery tests. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the melanoma rearing its ugly head again. As before, it was removed (along with her right upper lobe) at MSKCC and had thankfully not spread. We hoped it would be at least another 5 years before anything resurfaced. However, in August ’10, she began to lose control of her left hand and arm, and the worst news hit: the melanoma had metastasized to the right parietal lobe of her brain, forming five tumors. Three were removed through surgery, and radiation was recommended to follow.

September and October were extremely stressful and frightening for my mother. Having brain tumors really played havoc with her life and even had her questioning her sanity at time. My mother planned to celebrate the end of her radiation treatment by visiting me and my partner in Michigan for 12 days. In addition to the cancer, she had been taking care of my grandmother with dementia 24-7 for the past 4 years…she knew she needed a break and looked forward to a vacation. Regrettably, her doctors had not revealed her true prognosis, that it was unlikely for her to live more than a few months (which is clearly stated on the AIM site…I just didn’t know about it at the time). Right before she flew out, one of her doctors did tell me over the phone and urged me to convince her to spend whatever time she had left with me in Michigan as we had always been EXTREMELY close. My mother was a bit in denial when I broke the news (NOT a position I ever thought I’d be in!), but she agreed. Unfortunately, she took a turn for the worse only a week into her visit, and Hospice was immediately called in. Two months to the day of flying out to Michigan, my mother departed this life, joining in Heaven so many of her beloved relatives and friends who had predeceased her.

My mother truly touched everyone she met. She was known for her beautiful smile, which genuinely lit up a room. She was also routinely recognized for her hearty laugh…though she was quite the giggler, as well! Jacquie had no problem being goofy and vulnerable. So many casually uttered statements immediately sparked a remembered tune, prompting her to burst into song (typically accompanied by me and even my grandmother–it’s a family “trait”). Likewise, my mother’s catalogue of “inside jokes” with friends and family was vast. She lived to make others happy and more comfortable. She was continually seeking that “special something” to brighten a loved one’s day. Even as her own income dwindled, she continued to donate money to various charities. In her last months, donating to melanoma research and education was something she urged everyone to do. No matter her own situation, she always felt there was someone less fortunate. Indeed, Jacquie was generally self-effacing, never believing she was very special…yet to those of us who loved her, she was extraordinary. I, for one, feel beyond blessed to have had her for a mother for 40 wonderful years.

Jennifer Desiderio, daughter

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MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH MALIGNANT MELANOMA

 

Back, way back, ... when I was 28 or 29 and had a large, dark, malignant melanoma on my left forearm and had to have surgery on it, to get close enough to get a full margin, my surgeon was Dr. Henry Holleman, Sr., in Columbus, MS. He had to take off a partial  piece of skin from my thigh to put a graft on the spot where the skin was taken off.

 

They let me leave the hospital that night to go to a party. My friend Jill Wood came in and shampooed my hair. That night at the party everyone wanted me to drop my drawers to show them the skin graft!

 

He was one of the original M*A*S*H surgeons. He was the one played by MacLean Stevenson, who loved to fish, and so, always had fishing lures in his office. I collected unusual glass bottles, including many that were dark blue cobalt color.  Each of us brought the other one collectibles! He was a great surgeon and took very good care of me. After the original surgery we went in again and removed many moles and freckles and had them all tested. Later, I saw a plastic surgeon to have the size of my scar reduced.

 

A year later they were afraid my cancer had returned and did many tests to be sure it had not - which it hadn't.

 

As it happened he was in my hospital room the night of the M*A*S*H finale and he was sitting on the side of my bed, patting my hand.

 

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